Soldier’s family survives the Samudra death, saves two girls
By Asif Fuard
A soldier clutching two of his children clung on to the roof of the train and then rescued his wife and his third child from the water-filled compartment in last Sunday's tsunami catastrophe.

Forty-two-year-old Keerthilal Nanayakkara of the army Engineers corps, his wife Kumari Ranjani and three children got into the Samudra Devi train on that fateful day from the Colombo, Fort station in the morning. The family were to spend the holiday season with relatives in Galle.

As they passed Amabalangoda, the train came to a halt and a large crowd was on the rail track looking at the unusual phenomenon on the beach. Upon seeing a towering wave coming towards them, the people tried to get into the train, Mr. Nanayakkara said.

"The first wave that hit the train toppled the first carriage and all those in it drowned. Water came into other carriages upto the window level. We were on the third carriage and the wave had jolted the carriage. I climbed on top of the carriage with two of my sons clinging on to me.

"After five minutes a wave that went ten feet over the train hit us and toppled the train. We clung on to the train. But I knew my wife and my oldest son were stuck inside the toppled carriage. I pulled both of them through the window of the carriage. Later my wife managed to rescue two girls. "When there was a lull, we managed to hold on to a wire and reach a lagoon. We all swam across the water which was by then calm and shallow. We walked about several kilometres and found refuge in a temple," the soldier said recalling the horror that killed more than 1000 passengers of the train.

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